I suppose everyone has their take on the American Dream. For me, it’s like standing outside and looking in. I don’t know exactly how to frame my concept of the phrase. I would say that most of us natural born citizens would not know. Rightly so; we were born into it. The immigrant, of course, can compare. Further, I would wager, that most of us have never seen The Stature of Liberty standing out in New York Harbor, only once did I see it.
Actually, it is noted, that the American Dream is not new; it was coined back in 1774 when the Royal Governor of Virginia under the King of England, was noted as saying, “If the Americans ever imagined that if the lands further off are better than the land on which they had settled, being a paradise, would move on if they heard of a better place further west.”
There are many experts on the subject, each having different concepts. I can only explain what I have read about the American Dream. I had never bothered or had been concerned with the phrase. I always thought, that progress was due to hard work and facing responsibility. It was something that naturally happened, like following a proverb; all the while, it is our form of government that allowed me to do those things. Here again, I would wager, that only the immigrants have a hard, mental grasp of the term.
Returning from overseas duty in Europe was when I became acquainted with the full measure of the term. Even then, not realizing its significance, I can certainly remember one thing when disembarking from the ship, squatting and kissing the American soil. It was then, realizing that I was safe again, being back home in America. Like most, I had taken it for granted.
Most any foreigner would say that it’s our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, hammered out by our founding fathers, the documents that we were born and live under, are the reasons for the American Dream. The foreigner might say that you have never lived under any other form of government; how could you possibly know and compare?
The American Dream, I believe, is closer to the human spirit, a characteristic of government never before imagined on this earth. It simply means the freedom to move onto a better place to live, or developing to one’s fullest ability. The founding fathers must have known that they had this one last chance in history to establish such a government. It is a term that is becoming very popular these days simply because of the political upheaval in other countries and it’s also the political front in this country.
Maybe, just maybe, the American people, in these days of uncertainty, are beginning to think about the vulnerability of our way of life.
In recent years, other nations have developed their dreams. For instance, West Germany developed a dream for a better life. There was an intense motive to develop one identical to the American Dream. It has become a dream in all of Germany.
In Britain, Margaret Thatcher worked to create a similar dream. Her drive was to sell public-housing units to the tenants; it was called “Homes of Our Own.” To most citizens, their ownership means first and foremost a home of their own.
In Russia, it’s a fascinating story. Boris Yeltsin who took over as the leader, after the fall of Communism, embraced the “American Way.” Following, the newly created independent Russian media idealized America and endorsed what was called the shock therapy for the economy. A plan was announced for widespread home ownership. It’s called “The Russian Dream.”
Then, there is the Chinese Dream. It’s mostly about the aspiration of individual self improvement. It’s a set of ideals that is used mostly by journalists, government officials, and activists to explain to the people. It is said that the Chinese Dream can be interpreted as the collective consciousness of the people.
These are the only national dreams we know of. There are many others.
To sum it up, long ago, it was America’s Constitution that caused and set afire the dreams of man, and the human spirit, world wide. Any place in the world, you will hear expressions like “Good ole USA” or “I want to go to America.”
We must be the envy of the world; we’re used to doing great things; one of them, for example, was the moon shot. Thinking nothing about that, the rest of the world, however, was petrified.
One last note and moving on: Often, I have imagined how it all probably began, a group of guys sitting around in a tavern back in the colonial days, drinking British ale. Some restless radical like Patrick Henry slammed his chalice of ale down on the table and shouted, “Why do we have to follow the rule of the King of England who is three thousand miles away?” That must have been the mighty seed that grew and grew until over the years it developed into what we have today, The American Dream.
Francis Bond lives in Richmond Hill. He writes a semi-regular column for the News.